As autumn settles in and winter approaches, it’s a good time consider the care your trees need now and throughout the coming season. Keep these things in mind and you’ll have happier trees this spring!
Cultural Practices to Keep Trees Healthy
- Pruning: Before winter arrives, prune out dead or broken branches. They may be at risk of falling with the added weight of snow or ice. In fact, pruning in general is a good thing to take care of in the winter. Most plants go dormant and fungi are less of a concern.
- Mulching and Irrigation: It’s important to pay attention to mulching and irrigation year-round – not just during the growing season but also during winter. Even though plants may be dormant, many still require a minimum amount of water to meet their needs. Mulching helps to maintain soil moisture. Additionally, it provides a buffer against stress to the root zone.
- Deicing Salt: Remember that while salt might be good for driveways, it can be terrible for trees. Increasing salt levels in the soil can damage and kill fine roots. This prevents healthy levels of nutrient uptake by the root system.
Managing Pests & Disease
- Improve Airflow: Pruning trees and shrubs to increase airflow and sun penetration can be a great way to help reduce the likelihood of future fungal infection. If the foliage stays mostly dry then the plant is less likely to become infected.
- Raking: If any fungal pathogens were found on the foliage throughout the growing season, you should rake up the fallen leaves. Raking and removing this material will help reduce the levels of infectious fungal inoculum that may be waiting over the winter to re-infect foliage the following spring.
- Controlling Scale Insects: A new scale control technique we’ve found effective is to physically remove these tiny pests with a scrub brush! Now is a good time to take care of accessible scale populations that may be entering their overwintering period. Scraping away the protective covers and physically removing the insects can greatly reduce populations. Smaller populations are generally easier to control.
- Deterring Wildlife: Wildlife can be a huge nuisance for landscape plantings. Deer and small mammals may munch on any available landscape plants. Products are available to help deter wildlife feeding. Protecting feature plants in the winter is especially important as fewer wild plants may be available for wildlife to feed on.